The East Carolina University tennis teams ended their seasons last week at the American Athletic Conference Championships in Dallas, Texas. Both teams were beaten by Tulane University, as the women fell in the first round of the tournament, and the men were defeated in the semifinal after a stellar season.
The seventh seeded Pirate men started the tournament strong, defeating the 10-seed University of Connecticut 4-0 in their first match on April 19. The Pirates took the doubles point, and stayed hot in the singles matches, as senior Freddie McGeehan (6-4,6-1), junior Vlad Anghel (6-0,6-3) and freshman Wisse Jonker (6-2,6-0) all won their singles matches for the Pirates. With the win, Jonker improved to 18-2 on the season in singles matches.
The Pirate men’s run in the tournament was ended on April 20 as the team lost in the semifinals to the two seed Tulane, 4-1. The Pirates lost the doubles point and failed to get going in the singles matches, as senior Kasey Countee (6-4,6-2) won the sole match for the team. Despite the loss, head coach Shawn Heinchon was proud of the way his team played.
“The guys played great. They’ve been starving for an opportunity like that against a top 25 team,” Heinchon said, “They played awesome. They were extremely aggressive and full of passion, but Tulane just played a little better than us.”
Despite the disappointing end, ECU tennis had a record-setting year. The men’s team finished with a program-record 22 wins, a six-game improvement from last season, and three games better than the best previous season under head coach Shawn Heinchon.
“It’s hard to take in the season this close to it,” Heinchon said, “We had a great season, so we do need to take the time to appreciate it, but it’s also so important that we continue to improve, thats a priority that overrides everything else.”
The eighth seeded women were defeated on April 17 in a close 4-3 loss to the ninth seeded Green Wave. The team opened strong, winning the doubles point, yet lost the match by dropping four of the six singles matches. Junior Celia Ruiz (6-4,6-2) and sophomore Lisa Hofbauer (6-3,6-3) both won their singles matches for the Pirates in straight sets. Ruiz ended the season with eight straight solo match victories. Despite being upset, head coach Tom Morris was proud of his team's effort.
“Overall, I was proud of the way the team fought in the match,” Morris said. “We were out of it early, but we came back and gave ourselves a chance to win in a really tight match.
The women’s team didn’t set any records, the team had an impressive season, finishing 17-9, a five-game improvement from last season. The team also finished with an undefeated (7-0) record at home for the first time in program history according to ecupirates.com record books.
“I’m proud of the teams this year. We had maybe our best year ever,” Morris said. “If you look at our national ranking and the schedule we had, I feel like we responded well to the adversity and I'm really proud of the play and hard work of this team.”
Looking ahead to next year, the Pirate men and women both have solid players returning to the roster. The men have a promising pair of underclassmen in Renones and Jonker, who combined for a 17-2 record in doubles play this season. Jonker also recorded an impressive 18-2 record in his singles matches. The women will return No.72 nationally ranked Ruiz who enters her senior season next year. Coach Morris thinks his team is poised for more success next season after a good spring.
“We’ve got a couple of really good recruits coming in, and I really think we have a chance to be even stronger next year, and I’m really looking forward to it.” Morris said.